Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

Yeah right, 'Excited Delirium' my ass...


The primary purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet for my observations and analysis about tasers, taser "associated" deaths, and the behaviour exhibited by the management, employees and minions of Taser International. In general, everything is linked back to external sources, often via previous posts on the same topic, so that readers can fact-check to their heart's content. This blog was started in late-2007 when Canadians were enraged by the taser death of Robert Dziekanski and four others in a short three month period. The cocky attitude exhibited by the Taser International spokespuppet, and his preposterous proposal that Mr. Dziekanski coincidentally died of "excited delirium" at the time of his taser-death, led me to choose the blog name I did and provides my motivation. I have zero financial ties to this issue.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On the lack of regulation of the taser (ECD) industry

This was originally posted as a comment on the Truth...Not Tasers blog. [LINK]

The following version has been gently edited, and extended.

Let's talk about taser (ECD) electrical safety standards, the lack of them, and the results.

In 1999, Taser International introduced the M26 "Advanced" taser. It had a waveform that was high frequency and very low duty cycle. At the time, Taser International claimed it was safe BECAUSE the electrical output was high frequency and low duty cycle. The monthly taser-associated death rate was less than one per month.

But Taser International continued to fiddle. In 2003, they introduced the X26 taser. They didn't give it a name, but the "X26 Hubris" would be appropriate. This taser model added a harmless-looking little DC pulse to the waveform, and all indications are that even the head of their Medical Safety committee, a man with a PhD in EE, failed to remember his EE 101. He has repeatedly and explicitly claimed that the output still has "short pulses" and a low duty cycle.

In fact, the harmless-looking DC pulse occurs at 19 Hz and is therefore low frequency and continuous 100% duty cycle. The waveform is no longer just high frequency and very low duty cycle as was the case with the 1999-era M26. They've walked away from the two waveform characteristics that they had previously claimed were the reason it was safe with the previous model.

The government regulators did not react to this change because there are no government regulators with responsibility over taser standards. And there are no standards.

The monthly taser associated death rate shows a near step-function increase from less than one taser-associated death per month to about 7 per month starting coincident with the introduction of the newer X26 model in mid-2003.

Looking for references? Here is one to get you started: [LINK].

In fact, the Canadian reports appear to indicate that, even during years when the older M26 taser model was actually being used three times more often than the newer X26 taser, the taser deaths in Canada during that period were reportedly exclusively associated with the X26.

If this preliminary observation from mismatched data sets can be confirmed by the regulators, then it may be critical evidence of the different risks between the M26 and X26 tasers. Oh damn, there are no government regulators.

If Taser International has this info, you can bet that they'll have shredded it by now. If the police have this info, they're keeping it to themselves. The available on-line database does not mention the M26 vs. X26 taser model used. I wonder why? But data gathered by taser critics shows a disturbing X26 bias.

And now, in late-2009, Taser International has just introduced the new X3. It emits about 40% less electrical charge than the X26. And they seem to be keeping the waveform shape and frequency spectrum under wraps. I've poked around and I haven't found the info yet. I'm sure the government regulators would have some questions about the 40% reduction after all the taser deaths with previous model. Oh damn, zero regulatory involvement.

And their new XREP projectile includes an explicit and intentional "Hand Trap" feature that violates their own guidance (revision 1) issued 30 September 2009. They've changed the guidance to avoid having to explain about the arms and hands. I'm sure that the regulators review such life and death critical documents for accuracy and consistency. Oh damn, zero government oversight.

Wild West. Yee Haw.

The lack of government oversight of this one-company industry is as startling as it is inexplicable. The direct result of this hands-off approach has been corporate behaviour that should make any keen observer incandescent with rage.

Nobody noticed that they expunged the RMS current values (about 160 mA) from the data sheets, leaving only the misleading 2 mA "average" value. The inherent claim that the "effective" current is the average is insane nonsense. Comparing the actual effects makes it clear that the effective current is much closer to the RMS value than the "average".

Nobody seems to have noticed that there seems to be a statistical surplus of taser chest hits in those victims that died. Many thousands of trainees were tasered in the back with only a few major injuries reported. But the real world has had police told that "tasers are safe" and they've been firing them into the chest and people die.

And now they advise "avoiding the chest" and make the preposterous claim that this guidance (which carries an extremely high cost to them), is just to help their customers "avoid controversy". What a crock...

If this industry (company) were subjected to even a small fraction of the Federal regulatory oversight imposed on every other company, they'd probably be shut down.

The utter abdication of the governments in their fundamental role to protect the public, not just "criminals" but also those having mental heath emergencies right down to average citizens facing police that, in some cases, are demanding more respect than they've earned... ...this abdication is inexplicable and dangerous. People do not deserve to face a risk of death unless their behaviour escalates to the thresholds defined by Judge Braidwood. All of this overuse, misuse, and abuse stems from the false claim from Taser International that tasers are inherently safe with respect to internal risk factors such as, for example, cardiac effects.

This industry, their potentially-deadly products, their ever-changing story, their manipulative relationships with medical examiners, their fiddling with the "science", their too-nuanced twisting of language, their defective training, all of it. This blog contains dozens and dozens of examples of them playing the system.

It all needs governmental oversight.



Anonymous said...

It is indeed incredible that there is zero government regulation but the Taser is an instrument of torture so why is it legal in the first place?

I have just published another article on my blog http://theduckshoot.com that refers to your excellent research and analysis of this subject.

Critical Mass said...

I can think of three regulatory organizations in the US which could be called upon to test and regulate stun technology.

The FDA should be regulating any device which claims to use the medical principle of "muscle stimulation" by electrical shocks. Benign "muscle stimulation" devices which use mild electrical impulses to exercise stomach muscles, are regulated and registered by the FDA. Tasers are several orders of magnitude more powerful, yet the FDA has only conducted a "literature review" on stun guns in the 1970's, and nothing since. This is an absolute abdication of the FDA's responsibility, in my estimation.

Since I strongly suspect that a small percussive ("Gun Powder") cap is used to release the 3000 to 5000 PSI gas in the taser cartridge, I believe the ATF has reason to regulate and control the sale of taser stun guns. The ATF has also passed on its responsibilities through a simple and incomplete review of "literature" on stun technology. They need to take apart a taser cartridge and examine what mechanism is used to puncture it and release that nitrogen gas. If an explosive charge is found, then tasers fall under their jurisdiction.

The third US electrical organization which needs to examine tasers is UL. It is the universally recognized authority on electrical devices, their design and safety. Manufacturers of electrical appliances as benign as flashlights, submit their products for testing at UL and tout the "UL" label as a sign that consumers can rest assured that the risk of harm from the use of their device is low to non-existent.

Both the FDA and the ATF have been contacted about their abdication of their duties with regard to stun gun regulation, to no noticeable effect. The process may have been started, but they are not acknowledging their responsibility or their intent. When UL was approached, they indicated they would do a thorough testing of any stun gun submitted to them by the manufacturer, but the submission would be at the manufacturer's discretion and expense. There is currently no "UL Category" for stun guns. The closest product line they have tested for electrical safety is "electrical fencing", and Taser International actually used and distorted UL's ratings on electrical fencing in its early literature.

The unauthorized use of UL tables on the safety of electric fences by Taser International, has perpetrated a fallacious notion among law enforcement that tasers carry the UL safety blessing. They don't.

Critical Mass said...

On the subject of "Training Cartridges", the 40% shorter barbs they employ and whether the electrical properties are equal to the output of the "real world" taser cartridges, I have the following thoughts.

The reason for the move to the X-26 taser gun, over the M-26 model, was that "in the field" uses of the M-26 were not effective, in far too many instances. You have noted the addition of a DC wave in the X-26.

Is it possible that the X-26 began using longer probes (40% longer) than the M-26 Model, along with far more potent electrical properties, while "training cartridges" kept the old M-26 barbs and weaker electrical properties? Perhaps "training cartridges" have never been changed from the M-26 days?

That would explain the shorter barbs and the relatively "good" injury record in those staged training shocks, which are usually administered to the back and often simply tape the wires to the shoulders.